The oldest patent for an electric bike I've been able to find at the US Patent and Trademark Office is this one, by Ogden Bolton, Jr. of Canton Ohio, which was filed in September 1895 and granted three months later. You can see from these original diagrams that it bears an amazingly close resemblance to modern electric bikes. In the general picture on the left, you can see there's a hub motor on the rear wheel (blue), a battery suspended from the frame (red), and a simple handlebar control to make the thing stop and go. In the more detailed cutaway of the hub motor on the right, you can see there's a six-pole magnet in the center (orange) bolted to the frame and an armature (made from coiled wire, yellow) that rotates around it when the current is switched on. It's quite a hefty motor even by modern standards; Ogdon mentions "a heavy current at low voltage—for instance, to carry one hundred amperes at ten volts." So that's 1000 watts, which is about twice the power of a typical modern bike hub motor.
European Union directive 2002/24/EC exempts vehicles with the following definition from type approval: "Cycles with pedal assistance which are equipped with an auxiliary electric motor having a maximum continuous rated power of 0.25 kW, of which the output is progressively reduced and finally cut off as the vehicle reaches a speed of 25km/h (15.5mph) or if the cyclist stops pedaling." This is the de facto definition of an electrically assisted pedal cycle in the EU. As with all EU directives, individual member countries of the EU are left to implement the requirements in national legislation.
But the good times of the stealthy ebike existence will not endure forever. The ebike market is growing steadily and more so, technology is driving performance up and costs down. The market for a green, lifestyle friendly, transportation technology, with GPS, theft ID, cell service and probably skim lattes is alive and driving an emerging market. It is a matter of time before we all must face and respond to the legal demands of the state and local laws. Not to be over obligatory about being legal and duty oriented, but I do call on my fellow ebikers to ride legal, whether ebike, moped or other. Go ahead and build the 1200W ebike of your dreams, but get it insured and licensed if you must. Such compliance will set the precedence for public acceptance of ebikes in general, and build a track record for expansion and mainstreaming of moped-speed ebikes for commuter value driven needs of the future.
E-Bikes are the perfect way to ride across any city: stress-free, easy and fast travel, fun exercise, riding in style and ability to carry heavier loads than a normal bike. Practicing what we preach, this Valentine’s Volt partnered with leading London florist Rebel Rebel to deliver flowers all across London. Every hour on the hour 1 lucky person received a beautiful bouquet for free, just because we wanted to share the love!
Most consumers want an e-bike that will accommodate its motor without being too cumbersome and will remain stable in spite of its electronic components. Some consumers want only the most basic of e-bike features, including lights, a cargo rack/basket, and a water bottle holder. Others are focused more heavily on safety features, such as brake type. And still others are concerned with convenience and portability.
In addition the specific wording of the law may or may not prohibit the use of a "mid-drive" or "crank-drive" motor set-up where the motor drives the rear wheel of the bicycle through the existing chain drive of a bicycle that has multiple gears depending on several points of interpretation of the law. Specifically the interpretation of the wording, "does not require clutching or shifting by the operator after the drive system is engaged". A "mid-drive" or "crank-drive" motor set-up on an electric bicycle does indeed allow the operator to change gears in the power drive system between the motor and the rear wheel of the bicycle. Whether or not such a mechanism which allows the operator to change gears satisfies the wording that requires the operator to change gears is a matter of legal interpretation by the courts. Just as "shall issue" and "may issue" (as in laws governing the issuing licenses) in application of the law have two different meanings (in the first case if you meet the requirements they have to give you the license and in the second they don't have to if they decide not to even if you meet the requirements for the license) whether or not "does not require shifting" outlaws electric bicycles where shifting is possible but is not necessarily required is a matter of interpretation. Thus the legality of electric bicycles equipped with a "mid-drive" or "crank-drive" motor set-up in the U.S. state of Montana is not clearly defined.
In the 1890s, electric bicycles were documented within various U.S. patents. For example, on 31 December 1895 Ogden Bolton Jr. was granted Template:US Patent for a battery-powered bicycle with “6-pole brush-and-commutator direct current (DC) hub motor mounted in the rear wheel.” There were no gears and the motor could draw up to 100 amperes (A) from a 10-V battery.
In 5 years of working as a bike messenger in Minneapolis, I've ridden all kinds of bikes, in all kinds of weather. I've ridden walmart mountain bikes, 80's classic steel road bikes, kitted out Treks, pretty much everything EXCEPT for fat tire bikes. Such wide tires always seemed... too much. No need for a bike that only makes itself worthwhile maybe two months out of the year, I thought.
I would advocate you ride legal within the laws of your state. I would also look into some kind of liability rider or umbrella policy with your home owner’s policy, which covers your personal liability and theft. Get your bike registered; wear your helmet, eye protection, whatever is required by state law so that if an accident occurs and you are at fault, there is no legal recourse. Even if you own a 750W/20mph ebike that meets the definition of a bicycle, any at-fault cyclist may still be denied coverage by stingy insurance companies who want to support their clients. Your health insurance will usually cover your medical bills, but the costs of an expensive ebike may be lost.
Controllers for brushless motors: E-bikes require high initial torque and therefore models that use brushless motors typically have Hall sensor commutation for speed and angle measurement. An electronic controller provides assistance as a function of the sensor inputs, the vehicle speed and the required force. The controllers generally allow input by means of potentiometer or Hall Effect twist grip (or thumb-operated lever throttle), closed-loop speed control for precise speed regulation, protection logic for over-voltage, over-current and thermal protection. Bikes with a pedal assist function typically have a disc on the crank shaft featuring a ring of magnets coupled with a Hall sensor giving rise to a series of pulses, the frequency of which is proportional to pedaling speed. The controller uses pulse width modulation to regulate the power to the motor. Sometimes support is provided for regenerative braking but infrequent braking and the low mass of bicycles limits recovered energy. An implementation is described in an application note for a 200 W, 24 V Brushless DC (BLDC) motor.
In conformance with legislation adopted by the U.S. Congress defining this category of electric-power bicycle (15 U.S.C. 2085(b)), CPSC rules stipulate that low speed electric bicycles (to include two- and three-wheel vehicles) are exempt from classification as motor vehicles providing they have fully operable pedals, an electric motor of less than 750W (1 hp), and a top motor-powered speed of less than 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) when operated by a rider weighing 170 pounds. An electric bike remaining within these specifications is subject to the CPSC consumer product regulations for a bicycle. Commercially manufactured e-bikes exceeding these power and speed limits are regulated by the federal DOT and NHTSA as motor vehicles, and must meet additional safety requirements. The legislation enacting this amendment to the CPSC is also known as HR 727. The text of HR 727 includes the statement: "This section shall supersede any State law or requirement with respect to low-speed electric bicycles to the extent that such State law or requirement is more stringent than the Federal law or requirements." (Note that this refers to consumer product regulations enacted under the Consumer Product Safety Act. Preemption of more stringent state consumer product regulations does not limit State authority to regulate the use of electric bicycles, or bicycles in general, under state vehicle codes.)
Both the Stromer and the Stoeckli are very nice looking designs and easy to handle. Reliability for both does not seem to be up to Swiss standards, e.g. some of the 2012 Stöcklis seem to have bad contacts. However, as of 2013, most of these problems should be fixed. The Cube got criticized for its battery/saddle system, but this has probably been fixed in more recent edition and it has less "punch" then the other's since the motor is smaller (324W?). I don't know about the BH Neo Nitro. Given the relatively low price of the BH Nitro, it may be the best buy in this category if you plan to cover smaller distances (the battery is limited to 9Ah, and Spain's industry does need some help ;) Anyhow, all of these models come with a variety of motors and country-specific modifications. E.g. in France, the BH Nitro comes with a 350W motor and is electronically limited to 25km/h, whereas in Switzerland you either can get a 500W - 45 km/h version or a 250W? - 25km/h version.
Some electric bikes claim to use a neat trick called regenerative braking. If you start pedaling the bicycle or going downhill, the spinning wheels turn the electric motor in the hub in reverse and start charging up the batteries. In practice, regenerative braking is nowhere near as useful on an electric bicycle as it is on an electric train or car. An electric bike has much less mass and velocity than either a train or car, so it never gains (or loses) anything like as much kinetic energy when it starts and stops. You'd have to go down an awful lot of hills to charge up the batteries completely and that's usually not practical. And what's the point in pedaling the wheels simply to charge the battery? You might as well have bought an ordinary bicycle to start with!
However, Emu sells a little foldable number if that's your bag. The Emu Crossbar is for town commuters that require a sweet ride that's backed up by solid Shimano Nexus hub gears and Tektro brakes, which are adequate if not the best on the market. Riding is smooth and easy, with the crank moving sensor doing its best to iron out any gaps in power delivery.
No endorsement is required on a driver license in order to operate a motorized bicycle, thus the motorized bicycle may be operated by anyone with a valid driver license. Goggles, windshields and other special equipment required for motorcycles and motor-driver cycles are not required for operation of a motorized bicycle. However, crash helmets are required regardless of operators age. Minors between the ages of 14 and 16 may apply for a restricted license to operate a motorized bicycle, just as they would to operate a motor-driver cycle. For instance, they must take a written test, vision tests and demonstrate their ability to operate the motorized bicycle. The license issued will be restricted to a motorized bicycle only. The license is valid only during daylight hours and within a seven-mile (11 km) radius of the driver's home. Applicants for any type of license less than eighteen (18) years old, must complete a Minor/Teen-age Affidavit and Cancellation form making the parent or legal guardian financially liable for the applicants action. 
Another type of electric assist motor, often referred to as the mid-drive system, is increasing in popularity. With this system, the electric motor is not built into the wheel but is usually mounted near (often under) the bottom bracket shell. In more typical configurations, a cog or wheel on the motor drives a belt or chain that engages with a pulley or sprocket fixed to one of the arms of the bicycle's crankset. Thus the propulsion is provided at the pedals rather than at the wheel, being eventually applied to the wheel via the bicycle's standard drive train.
Depending on local laws, many e-bikes (e.g., pedelecs) are legally classified as bicycles rather than mopeds or motorcycles. This exempts them from the more stringent laws regarding the certification and operation of more powerful two-wheelers which are often classed as electric motorcycles. E-bikes can also be defined separately and treated under distinct Electric bicycle laws.
Simple, convenient, cheap, and economical—bicycles are one of the world's favorite forms of transportation. But they're not for everyone. They can be hard to pedal up and down hills or with heavy loads, and elderly or disabled people may find them impossible to manage. In the last few years, a new generation of electric bicycles has begun to revolutionize our idea of environmentally friendly transportation. These new cycles have all the convenience of cars with all the simple economy of ordinary cycles. Let's take a closer look at how they work.